Archaeologists Discover an 18th-Century Plaque Commemorating the Departure of Jews from Lithuania to the Land of Israel

July 22 2019

Excavating the remains of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius (formerly Vilna), researchers made an unexpected discovery this summer, as Agence France-Presse reports:

The stone plaque was discovered in a cellar below . . . the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, [which was the city’s] major Jewish house of prayer before it was destroyed by [consecutive] Nazi and Soviet regimes. “In 1776 we went up with joy to our land (Erets Yisrael),” reads part of the inscription. It uses [a form of] the Hebrew word [la’alot, meaning to go up, as in the term] aliyah, referring to the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel. . . .

The Vilnius synagogue, dating from the 1630s, was the most important synagogue for Lithuania’s once-vibrant Jewish community. Last year, archaeologists announced they had discovered the synagogue’s bimah, the podium or platform from which the Torah is read. The plaque . . . was discovered later in a cellar beneath the bimah. . . .

The Nazis burned down the synagogue and the remains were later demolished by the Soviet regime that built a kindergarten, later turned into a primary school, on the property.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Aliyah, East European Jewry, Synagogues, Vilna


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship